BERN , Switzerland, Sept. 23 (UPI) — Switzerland on Wednesday approved the extradition of Venezuelan soccer executive Rafael Esquivel to the United States as part of the FIFA corruption probe.
The extradition request by the U.S. Department of Justice is part of an ongoing investigation into the workings of the international soccer organizing body FIFA, in which executives allegedly profited through racketeering and other offenses.
Esquivel is the former president of the Venezuelan Football Federation and member of South America’s FIFA football confederation.
An announcement of the extradition by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said that, according to the U.S. extradition request, “by accepting bribes for the award of sports marketing contracts, Esquivel massively influenced the competitive situation and distorted the market for media rights in connection with the Copa America. Other sports marketing companies were placed at a disadvantage and the affected football federations were prevented from negotiating more favorable marketing agreements.”
The United States accused Esquivel of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars in the sale of Copa America soccer tournament marketing rights for 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023. He was arrested in May, and has 30 days to appeal the ruling in Swiss court.
In May, the U.S. Department of Justice charged more than a dozen FIFA officials and soccer executives of racketeering and wire fraud in what it termed a “24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.”
The extradition of FIFA executive Eugenio Figueredo was approved on Sept. 17.